Wireless carriers and device makers have a problem: in the U.S., the wireless market is pretty crowded, and becoming pretty saturated. Nearly everyone who is likely to get a smartphone already has one, and in a still-sluggish economy, people aren’t replacing their devices nearly as often as the carriers and manufacturers would like.
So what to do when you need to expand your market share but your market is getting too crowded and tapped out, and customers are getting too fickle and hard to keep?
You turn to the concept of “the Internet of Things,” a growing movement to connect nearly everything with moving parts to a network so it can access the Internet. Also called M2M (for machine-to-machine), it’s the concept that in the future will see washing machines order their own maintenance when they’re encountering trouble, EKG machines that automatically update patient records, refrigerators with Web browsers and smart meters that send alerts to consumers when electricity rates are the lowest, so the consumer knows to switch on the dishwasher.
One of the great, wide-open frontiers for cellular companies is the automotive market, according to a recent article on Rethink Wireless, and wireless players are pursuing it aggressively.
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“Locking in a large enterprise or utility customer is far easier than keeping a modern consumer faithful, and the best area of all to close the garden gates and achieve predictable revenue streams is the connected car.”
A connected car is one that uses wireless technology to connect to a network, allowing the users voice-driven menu access to driving directions, music selections, roadside assistance, weather and news, and pretty much anything else he or she might require during a trip.
While car-to-network connectivity isn’t brand new, companies are banking that the next big step will be connecting the car to the cloud, and the major players are already there.
“Broadcom (News - Alert) and Qualcomm are extending their connectivity chipsets from handsets to automobiles (and the latter is even pushing its wireless charging technology into electric vehicles, making the prospect of a Snapdragon car quite possible),” writes Rethink Wireless’s Caroline Gabriel (News - Alert). “They join the traditional auto chip providers, such as Freescale, in the race to bring Internet access and intelligence to the driver, while there is a similar battle among platform providers.”
Apple (News - Alert), of course, has entered the connected car market via its voice assistant, Siri, while Google also has a foot in the market. Gabriel observes that there is opportunity for Nokia (News - Alert) in this space, with its Here cloud-based location offering now split from Microsoft’s Windows Phone, to build an in-car platform before Apple and Google (News - Alert) can get in and reap all the opportunity.
In any case, regardless of which vendors get there first, consumers can be pretty certain than in a future auto purchase (that may not be very long off), they might find that their car is better connected than they are.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson